Armagnac comes out of its reserve

By Rémi Barroux

Posted on November 21, 2021 at 5:00 p.m., updated yesterday at 10:12 p.m.

It is the oldest of the eaux-de-vie, since its production is developing in France since the 15th century.e century. But armagnac is also the forgotten bottle lying around in the grandfather’s cupboard and which we do not know what to do with. Discreet, this alcohol has not known the blockbusters of cognac (2.8 million bottles produced in 2020 for the first, a hundred times more for the second).

It does not have the notoriety of whiskey either, even if it had its heyday when, during the War of Independence in the United States, the Americans preferred it to these two, too prized by the English enemy.

Known against deafness in 1310

Armagnac had to come out of the cupboard, find a language that reconciles the tradition of a region with strong character that is Gascony, with new tastes and consumer trends. “We must respond to both the“ fireplace, after meal, tulip glass ”clientele, and those used to happy hours, cocktail bars, a more uninhibited clientele”, analysis Olivier Goujon, director of the National Interprofessional Office of Armagnac (BNIA). Which points to the good health of the vineyard, “Plus 32% in volume at the end of July 2021 compared to 2020”, while conceding that armagnac is only a tiny part of the alcohol market: 0.2% of sales in supermarkets (cognac 0.6%), for nearly 45% for whiskeys.

But from Haut-Armagnac to Bas-Armagnac, via the Ténarèze, the three production areas, things are moving. “Something is happening, a dynamism, a rebirth”, says Lionel Osmin, co-founder of Lionel Osmin & Cie, a company created in 2010 to promote indigenous grape varieties and appellations from the South-West.

It offers seven armagnacs, a magnificent collection called l’Apothicaire. This name recalls that this “ardent aygue” (water of fire), reputed against coughs, fever, deafness, etc., in the Very useful book for maintaining health and staying in good shape (1310) by Vital Dufour, was sold until the end of the 18th century.e century by apothecaries. Lionel Osmin was inspired by their bottles for his cuvées, essentially single-grape varieties highlighting the taste qualities of each, such as the 1995 Baco, very intense, or the Folle Blanche, very floral and fragrant.

“Four musketeers”

Because the many grape varieties of Armagnac deserved a spotlight. On its production area which touches the Gers, the Landes and the Lot-et-Garonne, with 733 wine growers on 2,098 hectares affected (2020 figures from the BNIA), the controlled designation of origin has ten, including ” four musketeers ”, in reference to the tumultuous Gascon heroes of Alexandre Dumas: the ugni blanc (the most common, as in Cognac), the baco, the colombard and the folle blanche (also called piquepoul). Producers like to play on this diversity.

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Armagnac comes out of its reserve